Don’t you just love the word “superfood”? It takes humble vegetables such as Kale to the next level, making it superior to other foods around it. Who wants to eat normal food if you can have superfoods? That’s right, no one, which is why superfoods are such a great marketing strategy.
But I don’t want to sound all cynical. Of course, there are some foods that actually prove to be quite amazing, mainly because they are so much more nutritious than other foods. A great example is spirulina.
Not only does this green algae have a fun name, but it’s also packed with goodness and is quite versatile when it comes to cooking and baking. Spirulina has been around for thousands of years but only recently has it experienced a real health-food-hype.
Especially for vegetarians, spirulina can be a vital alternative to meat, not flavour-wise, but because of its protein content. In comparison, spirulina contains more than twice the amount of protein of a steak, minus all the fat and calories. Pretty good, if you ask me.
Here’s an even better quality of spirulina: It contains a lot of iron; 28,5 mg per 100 gr to be exact. This is great news for us women as we need 18mg of iron each day (double the amount of what men require). So if you ever feel tired and worn out, get yourself a spirulina shake to boost your energy.
The superfood is also said to support your immune system and even relieve allergy symptoms, all without any risks or side effects if taken responsibly. This means no more than 5 grams per day to start with as it has detoxifying qualities. Another important thing to do is to only eat spirulina that’s grown in a controlled environment as wild spirulina may be contaminated.
The verdict? If any food deserves the name “superfood,” it’s spirulina.
Image via Functional Foods Blog
As a health writer, I’ve tried my fair share of fitness and nutrition trends. Aerial yoga? Yep. Ancient healing herbs. Uh-ha. But when word of the latest super food landed in my inbox I was taken aback- algae.
Yes, algae. I’m not talking about the slimy, green kind though. Companies such as Queensland-based business Divinita have brought the health benefits of brown algae to Australian shores in the form of a small, odourless and tasteless pill.
Algae supplements are trending globally. Celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow are all said to be fans, thanks to its nutrient dense profile. Britney Spears reportedly eats algae raw (urgh). So, what is this odd health trend and should you try it?
“People can turn up their nose at first, but ocean foods and greens like spirulina and chlorella are becoming much more accessible,” says Adam Danielli, General Manager of Divinita – one of the first companies to introduce organic brown algae supplements to the Australian market.
Brown algae is extremely high in iodine, an element said to be crucial in maintaining a healthy weight that helps regulate the thyroid gland. A recent study found that many Australians are deficient in iodine, which is found naturally in wild fish, seaweed and iodized salt. What’s more, brown algae is also high in nutrients such as calcium, potassium, magnesium and iron. A study by Queensland University’s School of Agriculture and Food Science suggests this superfood is a nutrient cocktail.
“Extensive research shows that brown algae seaweed is more rich in antioxidants than acai berry and contain more vitamin A than tomatoes and pumpkin,” says Peer Schenk, professor at the University of Queensland.
While its benefit list reads longer than a queue at Press Juices, accredited practicing dietician Katherine Baqleh isn’t convinced this fad has staying-power. “I don’t believe in extracting nutrients and taking them in capsule form. Whole foods are best, especially because they contain a whole range of other nutritents,” she points out. “Fish, for example, is high in iodine, but eating real fish provides you with healthy fats, poteins and Vitamin D.”
She also stresses that iodine deficiency should first be diagnosed by a health professional. “Iodine is not a magic bullet for weight loss, unless you have a genuinely diagnosed issue,” she says.
Professor Peer Schenk notes that aside from iodine, brown algae is also high in protein. He says it even contains more than eggs. “This is particularly important because it allows the body to slowly digest the contents, which may help with the feeling of satiety and allow for better absorption,” he says.
So will this irksome-sounding supplement make it to superfood status? That remains to be seen. Anything that promises to combat those 3pm cravings and keep weight in check has our attention.
Images via Swiish
Who doesn’t love an easy meal that’s packed full of nutrition? Perfect to whip up towards the end of the week when cooking isn’t exactly a priority, this savoury superfood bowl – provided by Sally Matterson from her new book, Healthy Body – has the perfect balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein to help keep you feeling fuller for longer.
1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
1 garlic clove, crushed
100g (3.5oz) haloumi, sliced into 1 cm pieces
150g (5.25oz) quinoa, cooked as per instructions on packet
Handful of rocket
Olive oil, to drizzle
Salt (iodised or Himalayan) and freshly cracked pepper
Sprinkle of paprika or cayenne
- In a saucepan, bring enough water to a simmer to submerge the asparagus. Add the asparagus and garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until asparagus is bright green but still retains some crunch.
- Remove from the pan with tongs and cool under cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
- To soft poach eggs, fill a medium size saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Crack the eggs over a skimmer (poaching tool) to drain off the outer egg white. Carefully place the remainder of the egg into the water. Repeat with the other egg. Poach for 2 minutes or until the white is set.
- Fry off haloumi in a non-stick frying panover a medium heat until browned on both sides.
- Fluff quinoa with a fork and divide between two bowls. Top with rocket, haloumi, asparagus and a poached egg.
- Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt, freshly cracked black pepper and paprika (or cayenne) to taste.
Move over kamut and kale- the age of the superfood is dwindling. There’s no need to search for berries from the Amazon or ancient Mayan grains, the best buys are in your local grocery aisle. We take a look at the everyday supermarket buys that are bursting with nutrition benefits, minus the superfood price tag.
Here’s your guide to the best supermarket superfoods:
When world-renown chef Jamie Oliver was asked what his all-time favourite vegetable was, his answer was simple: beets. “I’m obsessed with them at the moment. You can roast them, smash them, cook them in the fireplace… the options are endless,” he said in a recent Australian interview.
Oliver’s not the only one who thinks it’s time for beetroots to return to the limelight. “Beets have strong detoxifying properties as they’re high in chlorine, which assists in cleaning the liver, kidneys and bloodstream,” says nutritionist and chef Samantha Gowing. “They’re also rich in potassium, which balances the metabolism.”
To harness these health properties, Gowing recommends dry roasting them. “Simply scrub them with a vegetable brush – be careful not to break or prick the skin – and cook in a moderate oven until tender. Trim the stalks and roots, carefully peel and slice as required.” Done!
“Everyone should eat more avocado!” says Larina Robinson, wholefood dietitian and founder of The Body Dietetics. “The healthy fats in avocados help your body to absorb more of the nutrients from other foods you eat. They’re loaded with fibre supporting a healthy gut, possess anti-inflammatory compounds, and are rich in heart healthy oleic acid – the main fatty acid found in olive oil.”
What’s more, a new study by Penn State suggests that an avocado per day may lower bad cholesterol, which can benefit your heart health.
If you’re stumped when choosing the best ripe avocado, Robinson says there’s a fool-proof test. “Pop off the dried little button at the top to check the colour underneath. If it’s green, then it’s good to go. If it’s brown, it’s too ripe.”
Nature’s golden fruit is the perfect nutrient-packed sweet snack. “Pineapples contain bromelain, supporting protein digestion, and are rich in vitamin C for healthy eyes and immunity,” says Robinson.
That’s not all though. “Pineapples are also rich in the trace mineral manganese, an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes important in energy production, antioxidant defenses and maintaining healthy bones,” she says.
Robinson says they’re an ideal fruit to have some fun with. “I usually serve up pineapple icy cold or frozen, in wedges, juice, or made into a frozen sorbet with fresh mint and lime.”
For maximum health benefits, avoid the tinned variety though. “You’re just adding extra sugar to an already sweet food, and most of the juice blends are reconstituted, reducing its vitamin C content and nutritional value,” she explains. Head straight to the markets or grocery aisle and grab one fresh.
“Broccoli is one seriously underrated vegetable!” says Robinson. “It’s packed with essential vitamin C, A, K and foliate. Plus it’s also loaded with sulforaphane, a powerful compound that helps to boost the body’s natural detoxification pathways,” she says. Not bad for a simple vegetable sitting in your local grocery aisle.
To get all the goodness from this green plant, be sure to steam it. A study by the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University has found that if broccoli is cooked until it’s too soft, it’s health value takes a dive. Instead, throw it in a steamer or sauté some stems for 2-3 minutes.
The humble cabbage might not sound as sexy as kale, but according to chef and nutritionist Samantha Gowing, it packs a seriously healthy punch.
“Cabbages are rich in chlorophyll and Vitamin B9, also known as folic acid. They cleanse and rejuvenate the digestive tract,” she explains. Not all cabbages are equal though. “The darker the outer leaves the more concentrated the chlorophyll and calcium content,” she says. Opt for cabbages with deep green leaves and add them diced to salads or fermented with traditional Chinese food for a twist.
Images via Maryam Makes, Real Fruit Jewelry, Taste, Green Kitchen Stories
Forget about buying overly processed muesli bars, because now you can make your own healthy snack with Janella Purcell’s superfood bar recipe.
Not only are the bars gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan friendly, they’re also packed with nutritious ingredients including hemp seeds, spirulina, maca powder and cacao nibs.
1 cup pitted dates, or dried figs
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1⁄4 cup Lifestream spirulina
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1/2 cup coconut shredded
2 tbsp maca powder
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp cardamom, ground
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1⁄4 tsp vanilla extract
- Cover the dried fruit, nuts and seeds in clean water and soak for at least 8 hours.
- After soaking, rinse them in a colander and let them drain.
- Place the soaked dried fruit and nuts/seeds in your food processor and whiz for 1 minute to get a chunky paste.
- Add in the remaining ingredients. You may need to add a little water to get it to a nice puree, scraping down the sides once or twice – if it’s too dry, add in 1/4 cup more coconut oil and process again (the processing will heat the coconut oil enough to help it blend everything).
- Scoop the mixture out into a large glass pan and press it down firmly with a spoon to even everything out. Alternatively you could also make these into bite-sized balls.
- Freeze for 30 minutes or refrigerate for one hour to harden.
- Cut with a knife and package them individually.
Recipe Courtesy Of Lifestream
If you’re looking for a healthy quinoa bircher muesli that tastes great and fits with your post-holiday meal plan, Simon Ward, Executive Chef at Hammer and Tong, has created a recipe that’s packed with superfood goodness. With a mix of quinoa, oats, goji berries and coconut, this wholesome meal is the perfect way to kick-start your Monday and keep those energy levels high.
2 cups Rolled oats
1⁄2 cup Red quinoa
1⁄2 cup Black quinoa
1⁄4 cup golden raisins
1⁄4 cup goji berries
1⁄4 cup dried cranberries
1⁄4 cup currants
1⁄4 cup shredded coconut
1⁄4 cup slivered almonds
3 1⁄2 tblsp coconut sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
1 3⁄4 cup Apple juice
1 1⁄2 cup coconut milk
- In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients except for the coconut sugar.
- In a small bowl, combine the wet ingredients and coconut sugar. Use a whisk to ensure there are no lumps of sugar, and that it is fully dissolved in the liquid.
- Combine all together, mixing to ensure that there are no areas of dry ingredients separate from wet ingredients. This should resemble a textured wet cake mix.
- Cover with a cartouche and leave to absorb in the fridge overnight – this will stop a crust forming on the top from air drying it out. A cartouche can be made from either using baking paper or glad wrap touching the top of the mixture. The difference in the mixture once it is ready will be visual. You should be able to tell that all of the fruits and oats have absorbed the liquid of which there will not be a huge excess.
- Serve bircher muesli with fresh natural yogurt and some berry compote (a nice reduced sauce of mixed berries and a small amount of sugar).